By Islamuddin Sajid
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AA) - Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has confirmed that Taliban leaders will meet U.S. top peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in the capital Islamabad.
"Afghan Taliban representatives are here in Islamabad and how long they will stay here, I couldn't say anything about this, but they will meet Zalmay Khalilzad," Qureshi told Hum News, a local broadcaster late Thursday.
There is no other way except dialogue to bring lasting peace to Afghanistan and the region, he added
Qureshi added that the Afghan government was also taken into confidence before the Taliban’s meetings in Pakistan.
He gave no details on the timing of the Taliban meeting with U.S. officials, but speaking to Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity, a senior Foreign Ministry official said it is expected to be held today after Friday prayer or Saturday morning.
A 12-member delegation of the Afghan Taliban political office in Doha arrived in Islamabad late Wednesday night at the invitation of the Pakistani government, marking the first-ever visit of a Taliban delegation to Islamabad since the insurgents established their political office in Qatar in 2013.
Khalilzad, a top U.S. peace negotiator, along with his team already arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday ahead of the delegation.
On Thursday morning, the Taliban delegation visited Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry where they met with Qureshi and other senior officials.
According to a ministry statement, Pakistan and the Taliban agreed on the need for “earliest resumption” of stalled Afghan peace talks with the U.S. in a bid to end the 18-year-long conflict in Afghanistan.
On Sept. 9, U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly canceled a meeting in the U.S. with representatives of the Afghan government and Taliban.
Trump declared the peace talks with the Taliban "dead," citing a recent attack in Afghanistan's capital Kabul which killed a dozen people, including a U.S. service member.
The raging Afghan conflict is in its 18th year, with thousands of lives lost and millions forced to flee their homes. The UN has repeatedly urged that opportunities for peace in the region be seized.
Last month, meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan asked Trump to resume peace talks with the Taliban.